Expanding YBS Education at Oklahoma State University

For more than two decades, CoBank and our Farm Credit partners have championed agricultural education at Oklahoma State University. Our financial support has helped establish both the Bill Fitzwater Cooperative Chair and the Oklahoma Farm Credit Chair.

The bank has participated in capital campaigns to fund OSU’s Foundation Seed building, the Purebred Beef Center and the New Frontiers Ag Hall. We have provided scholarships in agricultural economics and hosted OSU students in our internship program. We are also delighted to have a number of OSU graduates on our staff.

Most recently, CoBank has partnered with OSU to expand its Extension program. A $500,000 grant to the university’s Diverse, Small, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Support Fund has enabled OSU to hire a full-time Extension Specialist who will create impactful new programs. Future offerings may include workshops targeted to specific audiences, focused production boot camps and elevated for rural horticulture programs.

Agriculture has always been part of my life.

“Only a very small percentage of people in the U.S. have direct experience in agricultural production,” said Dr. Damona Doye, associate vice president of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. “A dwindling number of people have childhood memories of summers helping out on a farm or ranch. Many retiring and established producers do not have children interested in succeeding them on the farm. Growing the number of potential farmers and helping aspiring producers to succeed is critical to rural economies and food security.”

“Having a dedicated person who wakes up every morning thinking about how Extension can better serve new and beginning farmers will help expand and stabilize our educational programming efforts with young and beginning farmers and ranchers,” continued Doye. “It will also add opportunities to explore and develop new programs designed for diverse populations within our state and region.”

Josh Campbell, a Ph.D. candidate in agricultural education at OSU, has taken on this challenging new role.

“Agriculture has always been part of my life,” said Campbell. “Some of my best childhood memories are from the time spent working with my grandfather in his garden. I did not enter college initially thinking I would pursue a career in agriculture, but as I became more aware of the many career opportunities, I was drawn to Extension and the possibility of combining my love of agriculture with my interest in education and community service.”

Campbell, who had significant experience working in Extension, was drawn to the position by the opportunity to focus more broadly on serving beginning farmers and ranchers across Oklahoma.

“Having served as a County Extension professional, I have worked with many beginning farmers and ranchers and am aware of the challenges they face,” said Campbell. “I believe I can develop educational resources to help navigate these challenges. I also hope to support my Extension colleagues around the state as we strive to better serve Oklahoma’s beginning farmers and ranchers—something that is crucial for the future strength of American agriculture.”

In the next three years, Campbell plans to work with Extension educators to better understand the questions they receive from farmers. Using this information, he will build new resources and tools to better assist educators, farmers and ranchers. He also hopes to build strong partnerships between beginning farmer and rancher-serving organizations across the state to develop collaborative educational initiatives that best serve this important audience.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2023 Sustainability Report.